Halladay focuses on next assignment, not on his achievements

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In his first postseason start, Roy Halladay no-hit the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the NLDS. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

YOU CAN TELL by his physique that Roy Halladay lives in the Phillies' state-of-the-art workout room.

It is similarly obvious that Charlie Manuel makes no more than an occasional appearance there.

However, one April afternoon found them there together, so the Phillies manager took the opportunity to pick the brains of Halladay, the complete-game machine obtained in an offseason trade with Toronto.

Would Halladay, an American Leaguer his previous 12 seasons, bristle when Manuel lifted him late for a pinch-hitter, trailing in a close game? Would Halladay understand if Manuel pulled him at 100 pitches if the game seemed in hand?

That had just happened. Halladay exited a start against the Marlins with an 8-2 lead, having thrown 100 pitches in eight innings. The bullpen surrendered four runs in the ninth, and the Marlins left the tying run on base.

Manuel wanted to take the temperature of his new ace.

"I talked to him in the weight room about 45 minutes," Manuel recalled. "And, basically, what I got out of it was, 'I came here to win, Charlie, and the team's before me. I always will put the team before me.' "

He had taken the measure of his man, and he liked it.

Subsequently, there weren't many times Manuel needed to agonize over replacing Halladay on the mound. Halladay won 21 times this season and finished nine of his 33 starts, both best in baseball.

It was important, however, that he let Manuel know that, having come from a league in which the pitcher doesn't hit, this pitcher didn't expect special treatment.

"Letting him know, early on, that my emphasis - regardless of what the numbers said - wasn't always trying to pitch a complete game," Halladay said. "I had no pride in getting all the way through."

He is plenty proud, though, that he did it those nine times, including his next start after that conversation - and, more than 5 months later, the game that clinched the NL East title on Sept. 27 against the Nationals.

Halladay could not be prouder at having done it again in his playoff debut, when he shut out the Reds and recorded the second postseason no-hitter in history. Given that virtuoso performance, certainly there is pressure in tonight's encore, right?

"I don't look at it as pressure. I look at it as a challenge, you know, something to look forward to," Halladay said. "You don't feel like there's a certain standard you have to live up to. I feel like I need to go out and pitch the way that I normally pitch, execute pitches, and be aggressive."

Considering his dominance, the standard is pretty obvious: himself.

Why would he change a thing?

After the Phillies clinched the NL Division Series sweep Sunday night, Halladay knew he'd next start tonight, so, on Monday, he locked into his normal fifth-day routine.

He has not spent extra time preparing for the Giants. He last faced them April 26, when they broke his four-game winning streak with a 10-hit, five-run output that gave him his first loss of the season.

That might be excellent fodder for self-improvement. However, as with the Reds, whom he faced twice, he puts little stock in what happened in a season's previous matchups.

"You may take a couple things out of those previous starts, but, other than that, you're kind of starting fresh. There are new guys you have to go over, and, obviously, guys are going to be swinging the bat differently at the end of the season than they would 4 or 5 months earlier.

"So it's kind of a different ballgame. I think you prepare as if it were the first time you're facing them."

No, there's not much that moves ol' Doc.

He says he's excited, but he sounds as if he he's eager for, say, an oil change, not an NLCS start.

Presentation isn't everything. For him, it isn't anything.

Focus is everything.

So regimented is Halladay that, in preparation for his post-news conference plans, he brought his glove to his news conference. For that matter, news conferences are little more than a postseason nuisance, he said, but they are better than the alternative.

"It beats the heck out of fishing, I can tell you that," he said.

There is a capacity for perspective, and mirth, and cleverness. It just so seldom surfaces, and he so rarely indulges, and he so infrequently is given the opening.

Still, that wasn't his only joke, or his best, or most relevant.

He saved that in response to the biggest surprise for him about the postseason:

"The champagne's colder." *